Excerpt from When Being Jewish Was a Crime

Excerpt from When Being Jewish Was a Crime

The following is an excerpt from Rachmiel Frydland’s autobiography, When Being Jewish Was A Crime. The time is 1938 in pre-war Poland. Mr. Frydland, a yeshiva student, has come to believe in Jesus. Inevitably, the time has come to tell his parents:

When I was in the yeshiva, I rarely wrote home, but now I became more convinced that I must tell my parents what had happened. Yet whenever I began to write about my faith, I lacked the courage to be frank and I wrote in an indirect way. They must have guessed, or perhaps others wrote and told them of my experience, because on a certain day, unannounced, my mother came to visit me.

After so many years of separation, she burst out in tears—tears that should have been of joy to see me. However, now they were tears of sorrow because of the humiliations she had undergone from some Jewish people who blamed her and my father for my “departure from Judaism.” In their deep suffering they went to the hassidic rabbi who advised them to talk with me.

What can one say to a mother who points to the deep wounds inflicted on her by others because of one’s behavior? I kept silent for I knew the pain in her heart, but I told her that it was done, it could not be changed, it was a personal matter, and that I had not become a goy.

We went to have our meals in a kosher Jewish restaurant. My behavior and speech were as Jewish as before, and I treated her better than I ever had before. She went home comforted.

A few weeks later my father came and stayed with me. People had told him that when a Jewish person is baptized, a cross is branded on his left arm in the place where he used to put on the phylacteries. My father checked that carefully and saw that there was no branded cross on my arm. He reasoned that if I had become a goy, I should have been given a Gentile name. He looked in my documents and my name was still the same.

What then happened? I explained to him as best I could. In the evening we had a meeting at the mission. My father listened quietly. The next day we went to see Rev. Moses Gitlin, my teacher, and my father found nothing wrong there either. We spent the rest of our time together with several of my sisters in Warsaw.

My father also went home comforted. He was now sure that his only son had not become a goy and had not joined the enemies of the Jews to help them persecute his people. He felt that the Jewish fanatics must be wrong, for his son was not branded with a cross as they had told him, but continued to speak Yiddish and to keep his Jewish name.


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